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Almost, Maine comes to Arlington

Seniors+Caleb+Dunham+and+Avery+Erskine+perform+a+scene+from+Almost%2C+Maine%2C+which+has+performances+April+26-28.
Seniors Caleb Dunham and Avery Erskine perform a scene from Almost, Maine, which has performances April 26-28.

Seniors Caleb Dunham and Avery Erskine perform a scene from Almost, Maine, which has performances April 26-28.

Seniors Caleb Dunham and Avery Erskine perform a scene from Almost, Maine, which has performances April 26-28.

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In past years, the school’s theater department has traditionally produced one musical and one play every year. This year, the department is producing two plays along with the production of Bye Bye Birdie which was performed in February. J. B., a play by Archibald MacLeish, was directed by the school’s theater teacher, Mr. Keith Cassidy, earlier this month. Almost, Maine, written by John Cariani, is being directed by English teacher Mr. Danny Issa, and runs from this Thursday, April 26, until Saturday, April 28.

The play consists of nine brief vignettes, each featuring two actors who play characters that are in some way connected to each other through love. The play is performed frequently by American high schools, Yorktown High School producing their own production last March.

“Each scene tells a different story of love,” sophomore cast member Nicole Tucker said. “It’s how love can be literal and how it can be figurative and how it can warm your heart and break your heart.”  

Senior Maddy Miller is the student director of the show, working alongside Mr. Issa to make sure that rehearsals run smoothly. Miller comes from a background in set design and construction, so working on the directorial side of this production is an entirely new experience for her.

“If there are extra tasks to be handled then I will do them to make sure everything runs smoothly,” Miller said. “During the initial blocking and when we were trying to figure out characterization for everyone, I helped the actors get more familiar with their characters.”

Freshman Mac Nowalk plays Daniel Harding, a man in his late thirties whose girlfriend left him after he proposed to her earlier in his life. Nowalk previously played teenager Randolph MacAfee in Bye Bye Birdie; what’s been interesting for him has been the opportunity to play two wholly different characters, both in age and in personality.

“What I think is interesting is that Dan Harding is the opposite from my personality,” Nowalk said. “It’s nice to play two different faces in the same year, and it’s nice to get the perspective of both a young face and an old face.”

The ensemble cast is made up of a variety of different characters both young and old. Senior Katarina Forrest, whose scene appears at the end of Act I, plays Gayle, a woman who wants her boyfriend of eleven years to finally propose to her. While Forrest has performed in several of musical productions, Almost, Maine marks her first first appearance in a straight play at the school. Forrest reflected on her past familial, romantic, and platonic relationships in order to prepare for the role.

“It was hard because I don’t like my character, and I don’t like the situation she is in,” she said. “I had to box myself into a single perspective in order to understand what my character is getting out of.”

While the play is simplistic and often minimalist in style, there is still lots of effort that goes into creating the technical elements of the piece. Senior Aidan Endo is the tech head of the show, meaning it is up to him to make sure that the play’s technical teams are running smoothly. He is also an actor in the play, a first for him.

“It’s my first time being onstage in a mainstage show,” Endo said. “It’s a first for me, and I hope it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Junior Sarah Russell-Hunter is the stage manager for Almost, Maine, having previously been assistant stage manager during the run of Bye Bye Birdie. She is involved with the entire rehearsal and performance process, making sure the actors know their lines and that the technical departments such as costumes, set construction and lights are on track for success.

Russell-Hunter hopes people will come to see the play because of its sentimental message.

“I think it’s a story about all the different forms love can take,” she said. “It’s about how different people in different circumstances learn to grow and love each other. It’s a very sweet play.”

Almost, Maine runs April 26-28 at 7 p.m. Advance tickets $7 online or $10 at the door. https://www.wltheater.com/499410887352

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